This message was preached at theHUB conference 2013 in Dubai which is the annual Regions Beyond ( led by Steve Oliver) family of churches gathering . This message was preached by Stephen Van Rhyn.
This is not a pretty start for Jonah. If the call was to go to “Jerusalem and preach against Nineveh” it would be great. But he got a call to go to Nineveh and proclaim judgment against that city.
Option 1- He goes and gets killed
Option 2- The people respond and cry out to God for mercy.
Jonah did not like either option, so he did option 3- ran away in the opposite direction. He gets into a storm that is life threatening. Everyone is calling to God except Jonah.
Jonah confesses that he knows God but will not pray. They have a difficult situation- to remove the cause for the storm. Throw him overboard into the sea. The heart attitude of Jonah was - “I would rather die than obey God.”
Verse 16- you could think that v.16 is the end of the story. Those who resist the call of God will experience serious consequences.
Be wise and listen to God.
V.17- this is one of the most amazing verse in the Bible. The Lord provided a great fish. Jonah was angry with God and mad with God and yet God provides a rescue fish showing mercy.
If you look carefully you will see yourself in chapter 1. You were saved and rescued by the mercy of God. God did something more radical- he sent his son not a fish to swallow you but to save and rescue you. God had mercy and grace.
From the belly of the whale he gets revelation- on the problem and solution.
Chapter 2- his psalm 51- of repentance- “those who cling to mouth less idols- salvation comes from the Lord.”
Jonah’s problem- He was an idol worshiper i.e. not man-made idols but of that which he had constructed in his mind- his way of thinking that stopped him from following God. His identity of being a man of God stopped him from following God. He did not want to go to another people group- that they follow God and become like him. He wanted to be unique.
He realized he was saved by grace and grace alone and God could save others too.
Ch 2: 10- the fish vomited him on the beach.
The word comes a second time. This is the brilliant thing- he is the God of second chances. He does not write him off. God comes to us multiple times because he is faithful and he re-commissions him.
Chapter 3- Nineveh was an important city. Jonah goes and preaches to them and the people respond including the King.
Verse 10-when God saw what they did he had compassion and did not bring the destruction he had said. The book could end here but it does not.
There is a chapter 4. The Bible is brutally honest. This book is a sobering book. You can be miraculously saved but partially obey God and not reach our potential and call to reach the nations.
- Jonah did not give the full message.
Was Nineveh under the judgment of God?- Yes.
Was he to communicate judgment?- Yes. (God is a God of judgment)
But that was not the only message in the light of his own experience. He should have shared his own experience and his encounter with the mercy of God and his incredible strength.
- Jonah’s idols revive- the thing that stopped him from fulfilling God’s call on his life comes up again- he was a racist. You can be saved and miraculously rescued and still be a functional racist. He did not want them to receive mercy. He believed he was uniquely chosen by God because of his ethnicity. If you deserve grace- it’s not grace. Grace is for the undeserving- unmerited.
Racial pride and cultural narrowness are mutually exclusive. But this natural tendency is arrested by the gospel.
- God comes to Jonah the third time. In Ch 4:4- “have you any right to be angry”. Jonah does not answer God. Jonah thinks God will destroy the city. God provides a vine in the hot sun.
Verse 7-8: Jonah has another tantrum. What’s going on here? For a Jewish prophet to hear what God said broke every concept in his Jewish mind. Nineveh was God’s city that he tended and cared for.
Every city that we live in has grown because God is tending it. There is a huge prophetic trumpet call going out. Shall I not care about the other people groups in the nations?
God is deeply concerned that He sent his son to die for every people group.
Jesus told his disciples to preach it to the ends of the earth- to every nation, language and race.
Do not let your identity stop the call of God on your life to the nations. We must feel the heart beat for the nations.
Q. What are the bondages? What is stopping you from being used by God?
Clear out the muck. Let’s deal with that- get it out of the way.
‘Here I am, send me’. There are new churches coming in Regions Beyond. Get into serving the nations not just wanting a little piece of Steve for your church.
How do we do this? We look to one who is greater than Jonah. He did not turn away from the call of God. he was not miraculously saved but died a gruesome death. He was not racially narrow but shed his blood for the nations.